To be the best you must learn from the best.
Starpoint High School's Kiara McDowell has quietly become one of the most dominant girls throwers in Western New York and throughout the entire state. The Spartan faithful got to see the progression of McDowell over the years, as she spent five seasons in the track and field varsity program under the tutelage of throwers coach Steve DeWolfe.
DeWolfe has been coaching throwers at Starpoint for over a decade now and his resume speaks for itself. Having coached multiple competitors to the state championship level, including University at Buffalo track athlete and two-time state champion Sam Wray, DeWolfe knows a thing or two when it comes to big time throwers.
All things considered, DeWolfe feels that none of them quite compare to McDowell.
"It's extremely gratifying to see where she's come from, in regards to everything," Dewolfe said. "Academically, athletically, she's just a tremendously hard worker. She goes above and beyond. She just outworks everybody in all facets of her life, I think. That's just the type of kid she is. You give her something to work on, she'll give you everything and more.
"... It's so rewarding for me to see a kid like that when all the hard work pays off for them."
McDowell's resume has been piling up over the years, competing at the Section VI championship meet since her freshman year before taking second place in the Division I (large school) discus throw at last year's event. This spring, however, is when McDowell really took flight.
She took first place in the Division I shot put and discus events at the Erie County Interscholastic Conference and Section VI championship meets, then followed with a second place finish in the state and third place rank for discus in the Federation at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet.
Those achievements are all notable, but it does not even speak to just how dominant McDowell's 2019 season was. In 11 of 12 meets for the Spartans, she scored points for her team by placing in the shot put individually and in relay throws (nine of those 11 were first place finishes). She also took first place in the shot and discus throws for all individual events at Section VI meets that she competed in.
Her second place discus throw at states of 135 feet, 10 inches is now a school record, and she also recorded a 41-foot, 1-inch throw in the shot, which is the second farthest in school history. She even found time last offseason to become a US Powerlifting Association medalist in her first ever competition.
In the classroom, McDowell is an excellent student and is a five-time New York State Scholar Athlete Award winner. She is also a member of both the National and Science honors societies and has been an honor roll student through all four years of high school. This fall, she will continue her education and track and field career at Niagara University, where she will study pre-med.
DeWolfe credits the last two offseason training programs and McDowell's diligence in the weight room as her stepping stones to success, really helping her "get to the next level."
"Really, I can't say enough about her," DeWolfe said. "I don't want to say it's a fairy tale type of career, but she's without a doubt the hardest-working, most-focused kid I've ever coached and I've coached a lot of kids. And I've coached a lot of good ones.
"... She just does all the little things. And she won't settle for anything less."
It's been a long journey to this point for McDowell, but in the end her hard work and dedication have payed off.
"(The journey) has been good. For a few seasons, it was rough," McDowell said. "But this year I improved a lot and I accomplished a lot of goals."
Starpoint's girls track and field head coach Bernice Dumbleton has taken McDowell under her wing. Things have come full circle for Dumbleton, a state championship competitor in her own right during her time as a Starpoint athlete. The former SUNY Brockport thrower has formed a bond like no other with McDowell and has tried to build her up in more ways than one.
"As a coach, you want what's best for your athletes. You want to put them first and you want their successes to be at the forefront of everything," Dumbleton said.
Dumbleton initially met McDowell while the former was still throwing for the Golden Eagles, and she feels that the senior thrower has grown so much in the mental side of the sport. She sees that McDowell has even taken strides as a leader and roots on her teammates' success.
"Mentally she's matured so much. Just with being able to handle herself at meets," Dumbleton said. "She's been able to encourage others, encourage teammates. She's one of the biggest teammate supporters we've ever had on the team. She goes up to all of our distance athletes asking them how well they did (and) their times. ... She even ran on our 4-by-100 (relay team), so she's an all-around incredible athlete."
What may have started out as a coach-athlete dynamic has transpired into a true friendship between the two Spartan greats. They will be continuing to train together and Dumbleton will remain in the loop as McDowell ventures to become a Purple Eagle; Dumbleton is close friends with NU throwing coach Jordan Fuentes' wife, Maggie.
McDowell always had the tools to be successful. The athletic gene runs in her family. Her mother, Nancy Crenshaw, was a cheerleader and her father, Ty, was a high school basketball and football player for Lockport. McDowell is also the younger sister of Tyler Robinson, one of the most prolific running backs in Starpoint history. Nearly a decade later, his 1,841 yards in the 2010 season still stand as the highest single-season rushing total in school history.